• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Musical Theatre Guild Turns Sweet 16

E-mail Print

Musical Theatre Guild, winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence, has announced an eclectic quintet of shows to celebrate its sixteenth season of Broadway in Concert musicals. The company of professional performers present concert-staged readings of seldom seen musicals.

This writer first experienced MTG with the 5th show of their 2nd season in 1997. 110 In the Shade, the musical version of The Rainmaker, featured Earl Holliman from the classic Katharine Hepburn/Burt Lancaster film in the role of the Father. Taking Holliman’s role as the youngest son was the show-stopping, Robby Award winning performance of David Engel, while Michael G. Hawkins and Karen Culliver played the star-crossed lovers. Among the many shows I did see, the best were Stephen Sondheim’s Passion and Jason Robert Brown’s Parade, both of which were L.A. premieres.

My most recent MTG outing was a really rare staging of the 1943 One Touch of Venus in February. The reason usually given as to why most of these musicals are rarely staged is the book. That was definitely the case here with the script by S.J. Perelman and Ogden Nash which dealt with a barber putting the engagement ring he intended to give his girlfriend on a long lost statue of Venus recently purchased by a wealthy art collector instead. The statue comes to life and creates mischief for everyone. The 1948 film script by Harry Kurnitz and Frank Tashlin made a bit more sense. A window dresser (Robert Walker) impulsively kisses the statue of Venus as he is setting up a display in a department store bringing it to life in the heavenly form of Ava Gardner. All but two of the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash songs were cut from the film, but thankfully that is where MTG excelled. The cast was in great voice headed by Will Collyer as the barber and Jennifer Shelton as Venus. “Speak Low,” “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” and “Foolish Heart” were some of the gems heard. MTG’s production was nearly stolen by Diane Vincent as the wise-cracking Molly, just as Eve Arden stole the film in the same role.

Bat Boy The Musical, which started life at L.A.’s Actors’ Gang before finding success off-Broadway in 2001 with Kaitlin Hopkins and Deven May, will be MTG’s next offering at Glendale’s Alex Theatre on June 13.

The shows for 2011-12 are High Fidelity, based more on Nick Hornby’s novel than on the film that starred John Cusack concerning a record shop owner who, after his girlfriend leaves him, goes through a painful re-evaluation of his life and lost loves. The Broadway production closed after only 14 performances, but L.A. audiences will get a chance to see it September 19 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Fanny, with a haunting score by Harold Rome (which was used as underscoring in the 1961 film with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier), is the bittersweet story of love, secrets, and star-crossed young lovers on the Marseilles waterfront. The 1954 Broadway production starred Florence Henderson and Ezio Pinza. It plays November 14 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Little Women from 2005 sets the classic story of the March sisters and their beloved Marmee in Civil War Massachusetts to a heartfelt, lyrical score. It will play February 13, 2012 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and February 19 at the Scherr Forum at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

A New Brain, by William Finn and James Lapine, is Finn’s semi-autobiographical account of how he made the most out of life in the face of a harrowing major illness. It is smart, often funny, and always uplifting. It appears April 16, 2012 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Shenandoah, with a passionate Country & Western score, is the rousing, moving story of Charlie Anderson, a pacifist Southerner who is forced to take action when his youngest son is taken prisoner during the war. It is on Monday, June 11, 2011 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and June 17 at the Scherr Forum at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

Season tickets to the complete season at the Alex Theatre are on sale now directly through the Alex Theatre Box Office or by calling 818-243-ALEX. A two show mini-season to the shows at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza is available by calling 805-449-2775.

For single tickets to the Alex Theatre, call the Alex Theatre Box Office at 818-243-ALEX. Single tickets to the Scherr Forum are available by calling Ticketmaster at 805-538-8700 or at the Civic Arts Plaza box office. Visit or call 818-848-6844 for complete schedule and venue information.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.